We can put Turkey’s accession to EU back on track -- Turkish FM

Turkey’s EU accession process has been long and bumpy and is now under severe strain, but Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is confident the two sides can put the talks back on track, he wrote for the news site Politico on Tuesday.

Turkey's accession process began in 1963 and Erdoğan launched Turkey’s full membership negotiations in 2005, but talks have slowed in recent years, largely because of Turkey’s purges in the wake of failed 2016 coup and what the EU sees as curbs on free speech and other rights violations.

In March, the European Parliament called on EU leaders to formally suspend Turkey's accession talks. Last month, the top candidate for president of the European Commission said Turkey’s accession talks will end.

Pro-government columnists in Turkey have in recent months been calling for the end of talks, pointing out how countries like Greece faced a much shorter accession process. Last week seemed to mark a shift from Ankara as Erdoğan urged EU leaders to end the delay.

“I have no doubt that we will manage to come to agreement with our European friends to put Turkey’s EU process back on track,” said Çavuşoğlu.

First, Turkey is emerging from the difficult times following the coup attempt, with a presidential system that means faster decision-making and less bureaucracy, particularly in regard to EU-related reforms, according to Çavuşoğlu.

“Turkey has adopted more than 2,000 pieces of legislation in line with the EU acquis in the last decade — despite the scourge of terrorism, heavy burdens of irregular migration and a bloody coup attempt,” he wrote.

Second, an increasingly unstable world provides greater motivation for a closer alliance, Çavuşoğlu argued. He pointed to common positions on Palestinians, the Iran nuclear deal, and Syrian civilians.

Third, the EU needs Turkey, to help tackle the refugee issue, to fight terrorism, and to provide stability with its resilient financial sector and the youngest population in Europe, according to the foreign minister.

“Once Turkey becomes a member of the EU, it will significantly contribute to the bloc in a wide range of areas including security, migration, economic dynamism, soft power, social security and energy security. Yet, without a structured relationship and a merit-based accession track, the relation is potentially on the rocks,” said Çavuşoğlu. “First and foremost, we should restart the accession negotiations as they form the backbone of our relationship.”

Last week’s annulment of the March 31 vote in Istanbul was a judicial decision taken by an independent body that has been praised by European monitors, he said. After the June 23 vote, Turkey will have a four-year period without elections, just as the EU has a five-year election-free period -- an opportunity that should not go to waste.

“Turkey has had and continues to simultaneously deal with an attempted coup, terrorist organizations and an influx of refugees,” said Çavuşoğlu. “All that it wants is some understanding and solidarity in the face of this reality.”